I recently shared a drink with a friend who once ran her own marketing consulting business. When I told her about the comment I’d overheard, “There aren’t any good writers out there,” at an event, she agreed.
“What?” I asked, surprised. “Why?”
Her response was that writers she’d hired often turned in content that went way past the word count she’d requested. If she wanted 600 words, they gave her 1,200 words. And they told her it was up to her to cut the copy.
This boggles my mind. Whether they want content for print or online, my clients always give me a target word count, and it’s my job to deliver what they ask for.
A few weeks ago, I was working on a magazine article on a topic that was new to me. I let myself write long, to get the narrative down. Then I had to cut it in half. That meant I had to edit for length by tightening up sentences, getting rid of extra quotes from the source, and removing tidbits that were nice-to-haves, but not essential. I can’t imagine sending an article that’s twice the length that a client specified and telling her, “Here, you take care of it.”
Perhaps it’s my training as a journalist who once worked for print. You had a set number of column inches, so you structured articles that could be edited from the bottom if they ran long. It was common practice to remove entire paragraphs.
Good writers don’t just write. They edit their work before they turn it in, and that includes wielding the paring knife. The last thing good writers want to do is to create more work for their clients.